The best smartphone photo tips, tricks and hacks

Really make your snaps stand out

We're all digital photographers nowadays, thanks to those mini computers that we all carry around in our pockets, but most of us are happy to just point and shoot and leave it at that.  If you want to go further, then we've got some mobile photo hacks just for you.

Employ one or two of these tricks and you'll soon be standing out on your social network of choice. We're indebted to the Cooperative of Photography (COOPH) YouTube channel for most of these ideas, so head over to their videos page to see these hacks in action.

Zoom and stability hacks

Smartphones don't do decent zoom at the best of times, but you can change that. Try putting a magnifying glass in front of your chosen object for a macro shot, for example, or a pair of binoculars in front of the camera lens for a dramatic close-up shot of something distant (surrounded by a dark circular border).

As with a lot of these hacks, you might not get crystal clear shots each time - but you'll usually get something interesting for your next Instagram post.

For something really old-school, cut a pinhole in a piece of card and put that in front of your smartphone camera's lens: again, you might not get the clearest image at the end but you will get something more artistic than most of what your friends are posting to Facebook, so it's worth a try.

Stability is important in smartphone photography as well, with limited lenses and (usually) no tripod. Try fashioning your own tripod out of a piece of card, or using whatever's around - from a wall to a car seat - to keep everything steady.

Remember on the iPhone you can snap a picture with the volume controls on the bundled headphones. Use this option, or the self-timer on any smartphone, to avoid shaking the device while you're taking a snap.

Light and exposure hacks

Playing around with whatever light sources you have to hand can really make a difference to your final shot. One idea is to use a lighter up close to the lens to create some kind of lens flare (just don't get your fingers burned). Alternatively, shining a small torch into the camera lens, or just to the side of it, can work well too. 

Another option is to use a foil car sun shield to reflect light back on the subject of your photo - this can really brighten up portrait shots and give you something less typical to work with. Mirrors are good accessories to have to hand too, letting you create reflections and focus light without the aid of an expensive lighting setup. At a pinch, any sort of reflective material would do.

For scenes where there's a lot of contrast between light and dark areas - or just any scene at all really - see what it looks like with a photo taken through your sunglasses. The lenses usually do a good job of balancing out the colour and contrast so the software on your phone doesn't have to.

Exposure is something else you can play around with. Try locking your phone's exposure on a very dark or very bright surface - on a lot of phones this is done with a long-press on the screen - then frame something with completely different lighting and see the strange effects you can get, no Photoshop required.

Water hacks

A lot of phones are waterproof now but that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with dunking your mobile - one idea is to put it inside a glass jar as you dip it beneath the surface of a stream or pond, potentially giving you quality shots that include both what's under and above the water.

To extend the idea further, you might want to increase the size of your container and go for something like a fish tank: it really depends how much gear you want to be lugging around with you (and how desperate you are for that underwater shot).

Another option is putting a very small drop of water on the lens of your phone's camera, which can act as a macro lens and bring very small objects into focus. It's tricky to get right, but again the results can be impressive.

Anytime you shoot through water, whether it's a window dripping with rain or a glass filled from the tap, you can get something different, so play around with the possibilities and see what you and your mobile can come up with.

Those are just a few of the ways you can use what you have around you to create shots that stand out - now we've got you started, you can probably think of several more.

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